Several scientists advising the Environmental Protection Agency on its research agenda will be out of a job in August.
The EPA recently sent an email informing all scientists with expiring terms serving on an advisory group called the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) that their three-year positions would not be automatically renewed.
This decision will leave the EPA’s Office of Research and Development without a key source of outside guidance for setting the agency's near- and long-term research priorities on issues such as climate change for many months.
Members from the BOSC's five subcommittees were impacted by the recent announcement. Out of the group's 49 subcommittee members, only 11 will stay on, according to the Washington Post.
It's unclear if the executive committee, which currently has only five members, will also see reductions. Last month, the EPA let go about a dozen members of the executive committee whose terms ended this spring. Two additional advisers later resigned in protest.
According to former BOSC adviser Peter Meyer, the group offered technical guidance on the EPA's research efforts, as well as input on how the work could be done more cost effectively. “Our function was to try to help them be more efficient," Peter Meyer told BuzzFeed News. Meyer, who leads the consulting group E. P. Systems Group, Inc., resigned from the science advisory group in May.
The EPA is currently accepting applications for vacant advisory positions, and officials have said current members can reapply.
“EPA is grateful for the service of all BOSC members, past and present, and has encouraged those with expiring terms to reapply,” EPA spokesperson Amy Graham said in an emailed statement. “We are taking an inclusive approach to filling future BOSC appointments and welcome all applicants from all relevant scientific and technical fields.”
The decision to overhaul the advisory group has sparked concern among scientists and environmentalists that the agency will fill the vacancies with pro-industry advisers, a move they say would curb the group’s ability to be objective about how the EPA sets its research priorities. According to recently released sections of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's calendar, he has already had several meetings with executives from industries impacted by the federal agency’s environmental regulations.
“The Board of Scientific Counselors was formed to make sure the EPA does the best possible scientific work with limited taxpayer dollars,” Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “This independent advice is needed now more than ever. By sacking dozens of scientific counselors, Pruitt is showing that he doesn't value scientific input and the benefits it offers the public.”